Last week three major terrorist attacks across Central Asia held one significant unifying factor. The role of Pakistan in housing terrorists and terrorist organizations is becoming an increasingly common reality and dangerous threat to the region.
Attacks Across Central Asia
- On February 13, a suicide bomber struck a bus in Iran which was carrying members of the Revolutionary Guard. Twenty-seven people were killed. Iran states the attack was carried out by Pakistani citizens among the al-Qaeda linked group Army of Justice (Jaish al-Adl). Army of Justice operates out of Pakistan. This most recent attack is part of an ongoing series of terrorist attacks by the group against Iran. A back and forth struggle between Iran and Sunni terrorist groups operating out of Pakistan has been escalating since at least 2009.
- On February 14, Aadil Ahmad Dar drove a vehicle full of explosives into a convoy of Indian paramilitary forces in Kashmir. More than 40 Indians were killed in what is now being cited as the most violent single terrorist attack in Kashmir in the history of the conflict and struggle there. The Pakistan-based terrorist organization Jaish-e-Muhammad claimed credit for the attack a few hours later even while it was carried out by the local citizen in Kashmir.
- On February 15, a Taliban terrorist attack struck a remote Afghanistan border security post killing 32 people. The attackers infiltrated the base and killed all of the soldiers then retreated across the border back into Pakistan where the Taliban leadership is now based.
Three attacks. Three different countries. Three different terrorist groups. Multiple ideologies. But all of these terrorist groups are being housed in Pakistan.
A Consistent Trend and Pakistan Denials
The Pakistani government has historically denied its role in housing these terrorist groups. But Pakistan’s neighbors no longer believe these denials, if they ever did.
Earlier this week Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said, “We believe that it is in our interest that our soil is not used for carrying out terrorist attacks in other countries, nor do we want outsiders to come and carry out terror attacks here. We desire stability. If someone is using Pakistan’s soil [to carry out terror attacks elsewhere], it is [akin to] enmity with us. It is against our interests.”
It is likely not a matter of state-sponsored terrorism but the government of Pakistan being incapable of controlling these groups springing up and taking refuge on its soil. The variety of terrorist groups would be nearly impossible for Pakistan to control as deliberate weapons and strategies against its neighbors.
Bill Roggio a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and editor of Long War Journal notes:
“Pakistan’s continual support for terrorist groups is an established fact. Terrorist outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harakat-ul-Muhahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammad, Hizbul Mujahideen, and Harakat ul-Jihad-i-Islami were created with the support of Pakistan’s military and the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate and continue to operate inside Pakistan with the assistance of the government to this day.
Pakistan helped create these outfits with the idea that they would focus their activities against Indian forces in the state of Jammu and Kashmir to help bring down the country’s most critical enemy, India. But they quickly integrated with the jihadist syndicate that supports both al Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban. This terrorist syndicate also supports the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which routinely kills Pakistani soldiers and civilians.”
While the government of Pakistan may not be deliberately sponsoring these attacks throughout the region, they and the military have played a clear role both creating and maintaining many of these terrorist organizations.
Pakistan is becoming a pariah in the region and we may be approaching a tipping point. The threat of terrorism alongside Pakistan’s refusal or inability to stop these attacks is building up a measure of consequences that may soon be unleashed.
- Tensions Rising Between India and Pakistan, But Washington Does Not Seem Bothered (Washington Post)
- Our Soil Is Not Used for Carrying Out Terrorist Attacks (Long War Journal)